(Crossing the Chele La Pass at an elevation of 3, 988 meters above sea level (from where we get to enjoy excellent views of Mount. Jhomolhari and Jichudrakey), we begin our descent into the beautiful valley of Haa. It is about three hours south-east of Paro. Not only are the views of the valley itself just absolutely gorgeous, but the valley itself opened up to tourism only in the year 2001. It remains one of the least visited areas in the country and therefore retains the air of an unspoiled, primeval forests, with its wooded hills providing a very ideal location for hiking and mountain biking. The excursion to Haa is a very rewarding experience as the valley very well qualifies as a veritable paradise for nature lovers.
In the past, it was an active trading post, through Amo chu valley, which linked Bhutan with Dromo (Chumbi) valley of Tibet. Today, large areas are occupied by the Indian Military Training Center, one of the reasons why it remained closed to tourists until 2002. Prior to the advent of Buddhism in Bhutan, inhabitants of the valley followed animist beliefs and traditions which involved blood sacrifices to appease their local deities. However, it all changed with the visit of Guru Rinpoche in the eighth century who subdued anti-Buddhist deities like Ap Tshundu, converted him into Buddhism and bound him by oath to be the protector of the Buddhist faith. Today, Ap Tshundu is revered as the Patron Deity of Haa and propitiated on an annual basis.
The most revered temples in the valley are ‘Lhakhang Karpo,’ and ‘Lhakhang Nagpo’ which translates as the ‘White Temple’ and the ‘Black Temple’ respectively. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gampo released a black and white pigeon in order to identify locations for the building of the two temples. The Temple that was built where the white pigeon landed came to be known as Lhakhang Karpo and the one where the black pigeon landed, as Lhakhang Nagpo. The two temples are believed to be among the 108 temples built in a single day by King Songsten Gyembo in the 7th century to pin down a giant ogress obstructing the spread of Buddhism in the region.
The annual Haa Tshechu is celebrated in the Lhakhang Karpo. The two temples are located at the base of the three mountain peaks which represent the ‘Rigsum Goenpo’ or ‘Meri Puensum,’ – the holy trinity of the Gods of Energy, Compassion and Wisdom, namely Majushri, Vajrapani and Avolokitesvara. )